News in brief - 3 July 2014

July 3, 2014

Investment in academic teaching
Graduate quality at stake

The future quality of graduates is under threat from underinvestment in teaching, according to a study. The report, Improving the Status and Valuation of Teaching in the Careers of UK Academics, was launched at the Physiological Society’s annual conference on 30 June and calls for an urgent change in culture in terms of the value and status of teaching academics. Detailed in the study – published by the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Physiological Society, the Society of Biology and the Heads of University Biosciences – are the results of a workshop held in March and a survey of more than 250 bioscience and medical academics. These identify a number of steps that could be taken to improve the situation, including developing an excellence framework similar to the one that exists for research.

Technology start-ups
Incubator ranked European No 1

A UK university business incubator has been voted the best in Europe. An international ranking placed the SETsquared incubator, a collaboration between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, as second in the world, behind one at Rice University in Houston. SETsquared works to expand technology start-up companies in centres based at each of the institutions. It has worked with more than 1,000 early stage companies and helped to raise more than £1 billion of investment in 11 years. Dhruv Bhatli, co-founder and director of research at the University Business Incubator Index, said: “It is an outstanding business incubator that provides exceptional quality to its client companies and produces growth companies and high economic impact.”

Teaching for exams
A levels? Forgotten long ago

Students have forgotten more than half of what they learned in their A levels by their first week of university, a study says. Researchers at the University of East Anglia tested nearly 600 A-grade biology students at five universities in their first week of term to see what they could remember from their A-level course. According to lead researcher Harriet Jones, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, students had “forgotten around 60 per cent of everything they learned for their A levels”. “This is undoubtedly a problem caused by secondary schools gearing all their teaching towards students doing well in exams, in order to achieve league table success,” she said. “But cramming facts for an exam doesn’t give students a lasting knowledge of their subject.” The results of the study have been published in the Journal of Biological Education.

Labour science policy
There could be certainty ahead

Labour is proposing a long-term plan for research funding to help create high-wage jobs, ending the “uncertainty” in science policy created by the coalition. That was the position set out by Liam Byrne, shadow minister for universities, science and skills, in a Green Paper inviting views on Labour’s science policy, published last week. The paper, which sets out four areas where “change is needed”, also says universities “must play a major role in the UK’s national system of innovation”. Science policy can also help to tackle a “cost of living crisis”, says the paper, titled One Nation: Labour’s Plan for Science. Mr Byrne notes that “developed countries compete in high-value markets on quality, underpinned by well-paid and skilled workers, and [by] growing high value-added industries that require innovation and a highly skilled workforce”.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

News that Glyndwr University and 57 private colleges have had their licences to sponsor overseas students suspended, while the universities of Bedfordshire and West London have also been prevented from taking any new international students pending further investigations, set tongues wagging among our Twitter followers. @rcjclarke accused the Home Office of “ridiculous draconian actions”, while @Beerkens said the news was “a serious drawback for the reputation of international education”. @lizrou said she felt “very sorry for both current & prospective students of the three unis affected by latest [UK Visas and Immigration] visa restrictions”.

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